• Clarice Aeby

My Dr. Dolittle moment


“Just ask the animals, and they will teach you. Ask the birds of the sky, and they will tell you.” (Job 12:7)

I had my own Doctor Dolittle moment. I exchanged words with a seagull sitting on the edge of the balcony at Ocean Haven.

Author Hugh Lofting was in the trenches with the British army during World War I. The brutality was too graphic to include in letters to his children. So he began story-telling about a fictional British village, Puddleby-on-the-Marsh, and the doctor who talked with the animals.

The only creatures in my childhood home were two parakeets: Perky and Malty, gifts from the parents of my sister’s friend who died of a heart attack at thirteen. I’ve never been interested in talking to animals, which makes this one encounter very significant.

It happened while I was spending my first week alone – ever.

At 50 I’d spent some hours alone, even a couple days. But this was my first week totally by myself. With kids at college, and husband overseas on a business trip, I felt God’s nudge to come to the beach.

I took a carload of entertainment: boxes of books, musical instruments I didn’t know how to play, and art supplies that belonged to other family members. I was open to God doing something amazing and wanted to have all resources available.

After a day I felt the pressure to suddenly become a musician or an artist just too much. So I packed up the instruments and art supplies, and loaded them out to the car, leaving just books, paper and pens. And I entered into one of my wonderful quiet sacred solitudes with God that had become a meaningful practice since I was twenty.

The next day I got up early and took a walk along the secluded beach with access only to the few who were renting a room in the small remodeled facility. Except for the crazy crashing of waves against rocks in the Pacific Northwest, all was silent in my private room – no voices, no music, no television.

The arrangement was perfect: bed, long table, rocking chair and minimal kitchen and bath. The wide window revealed the ocean and the sky. All I needed for praise and pondering.

Everything was peaceful and still.

Until the moment I heard God’s prompt to write a book. A book teaching others how to do what I’d done with God for years: “Come Away.”

My first "come away" experience happened as a college student, and the urgency was palpable. I needed God to change my mind – and my heart – about a guy. I spent some hours with God alone, and He did both. He transformed my thinking and my desire.

From that first experience, coming away with God became a chapter in my life story. I didn’t know others who did such silent retreats, and few seemed interested in hearing about mine. It didn’t matter. They weren’t for others. They were for me – the time and place God called me when He had a message for the deepest parts of my soul.

“Write a book showing others how to do what we do together.” It was one of those very distinctive times in my journey with God when His Whisper was undeniable. I slipped on my jacket and headed back to the long, sandy beach. I needed convincing. Some serious convincing that I was capable – even with His Holy Spirit residing, it seemed impossible. As I walked, I weighed the cost – in time, in humility, in possible hard life lessons necessary to earn the right to be heard. Then I whispered my, “Yes.”

Back at my room, I sat staring out the picture window. Pen in hand – paralyzed. For at least an hour I waited in silence, thinking words would magically flow. They didn’t.

That’s when I saw the seagull, perched on the edge of the rail outside my window. I watched long, mesmerized by his stillness and his staring straight at me from the other side of the glass. Finally, I spoke right out loud.

“What are you doing?’

“Waiting to be fed.”

And that was the whole Doctor Dolittle conversation I had with a bird. I understood as though we spoke the same language. I was to write for those who hungered for God, but didn’t know how to seek Him.

I picked up my pen and simply began to tell the story of my Sacred Solitudes with God.

TO CONSIDER: Has the Lord asked you to take a step you are resisting?

Thanks for sitting still with me today.

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